French exports of cosmetic products continued to grow in 2019, with an increase of more than 9%, according to figures released by French Customs on February 7. For more than 10 years, exports have driven the growth of the French perfumes and cosmetics industry and reached 15.7 billion euros in 2019.

Global success

The cosmetics industry remains a major pillar of the French foreign trade, the second most performant sector after the aeronautics. Moreover, French cosmetics also attract tourists: out of 5 cosmetic products sold in France, 1 product is bought by a foreign visitor. In total, more than 50% of the French production is exported.

Exports have driven the growth of the French perfumes and cosmetics...

Exports have driven the growth of the French perfumes and cosmetics industry and reached 15.7 billion euros in 2019 (Photo : © Volodymyr Hlukhovskyi /

Europe remains the number one destination for French cosmetics exports, followed by the United States and Asia. The latter is growing in importance, with exports to China skyrocketing (+48% in 2019 compared to 2018). China , which was the 7th market in 2018 for French cosmetics now ranks 4th. Exports to South Korea (+26%) and Singapore (+16%) also sharply increased. Today, one out of five French cosmetic products is sold in Asia.

After an average increase of 10% per year since 2013, exports of cosmetics have enabled France to maintain its position as world leader with an estimated market share of 23%.

Skin care, perfumes and lipsticks

Skin care is the main product category among French cosmetics exports, it represents more than 7.3 billion euros, an increase of more than 46% over the last five years.

Perfumes and toilet waters also perform extremely well with sales abroad reaching more than 4.8 billion euros, up by 23% over the last five years.

While the makeup category only comes in third position, exports of coloured products for the lips have increased by almost 80% over the last five years to reach more than 730 million euros in 2019. It is therefore not surprising that Hermès chose this category for its first foray into the make-up sector.

According to FEBEA, the trade organization gathering French cosmetics makers, this success is based on solid positions in "all the levels of the value chain". For instance, the cosmetics industry’s R&D is the most efficient in France, with 3.6 patents filed per million euros spent.

"This success is also based on the entrepreneurial dynamism of the sector," added Patrick O’Quin, FEBEA president. "Each year, 170 new cosmetic companies are created in France, fuelled by the sector’s abundant innovation. Alongside major internationally recognized groups, our sector brings together almost 85% of SMEs, spread across France. In particular, in the territories which found ways to enhance their historical know-how in the field of perfumes - Provence for example - or their natural resources, Brittany in particular, thanks to the success of marine cosmetic ingredients.